Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Review- SPIDER-MAN: THE COMPLETE BEN REILLY EPIC BOOK 6

SPIDER-MAN: THE COMPLETE BEN REILLY EPIC BOOK 6 (Marvel, 2012; Softcover)
Collects Amazing Spider-Man Nos. 417, 418, Sensational Spider-Man No. 11, The Spectacular Spider-Man Nos. 240, 241, Spider-Man Nos. 73-75, Spider-Man: Team-Up No. 5, Spider-Man Unlimited No. 14, Spider-Man: 101 Ways To End The Clone Saga, Spider-Man: Dead Man's Hand, Spider-Man: The Osborn Journal, and the fourteen exclusive story pages from the 1997 Spider-Man: Revelations Trade Paperback (cover dates October, 1996- April, 1997)
Writers: Howard Mackie, Tom DeFalco, Glenn Herdling, Darick Robertson, Steve Gerber, Todd Dezago, J.M. DeMatteis, Glenn Greenberg, Mark Bernardo, Roger Stern, and Joe Edkin.
Artists: Pencilers- John Romita, Jr., Ron Garney, Joe Bennett, Darick Robertson, James Fry, Luke Ross, Mike Wieringo, Steve Skroce, Kyle Hotz, Ben Herrera, and Dan Lawlis; Inkers- Al Williamson, Al Milgrom, and many others.
Colorists: Kevin Tinsley, Bob Sharen, Christie Scheele, Gregory Wright, and others.

I did it. I finally did it. After 11 (12 if you count Spider-Man: The Original Clone Saga trade paperback) chunky 400+ page trade paperbacks, I have read the entire Clone Saga in all of it's infamous glory. It was at times exhausting, at times (due to the artwork) excruciating, but it was by and large highly enjoyable. I'll admit that the ending of it was something of a clusterf**k, but Marvel had sort of backed themselves into a corner and were in an unwinnable situation.
Things start out really strong, with the resolution of the gangster Jimmy-6's storyline. I am a sucker for all of the crime lords and gang wars of the Marvel Universe, and many of my favorite Spider-Man villains turn up: Tombstone, the Rose, Caesar Cicero, Hammerhead, Silverman, and the Slug. I have always dug on Tombstone since his first appearance and am a sucker for Silver and Bronze Age villains like Hammerhead. The fact that we are treated to some stellar John Romita, Jr. artwork didn't hurt, either. 
Spider-Man Unlimited #14 is horrid. Everything that it wrong with '90s comics is on display in this issue. Ill-conceived villains with ill-conceived costume designs. Horrid Image-influenced artwork by the abysmal Joe Bennett. Sloppy hand lettering. Colorists going apeshit with the then-new bells and whistles of computer color separations, coloring people's faces with four different flesh tones. Just ridiculous. I'll stop short of criticism on the coloring, though, because they were experimenting and discovering the limits of this new coloring technology. It just hasn't aged very well.
There is a continuity gaffe in Spider-Man Unlimited #14. Ben Reilly recognizes the Rocket Racer, who first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #172. This is after Reilly would have left New York, and he had not appeared anywhere where he could have possibly interacted with Reilly.
Spider-Man: Team-Up #5 is another example of comics gone wrong. I am going out on a limb here because everyone loves Gambit, but I think that he sucks. He has a stupid power, an even worse costume, and I can't stand reading his Cajun dialogue. I can imagine my own dialects, I don't need his dialect spelled out in every word balloon. The story in and of itself is good in spite of all of this. It was Steve Gerber's Howard The Duck back-up story that sucks. I have never been a Howard the Duck fan but I am a huge fan of Gerber's Man-Thing run. The story is full of so much of latter era Gerber's self reverence that it is off-putting. I realize that Howard The Duck was satire, but it was never my cup of tea. The redesigned Circus of Crime made me ill. There's even an appearance by Kiss in this issue, another nod to Gerber's '70s comics heyday. I did enjoy the Valujet and Savage Dragon spoofs, though. Apologies to all Duck and Gerber fans, but this story blew. 
Artwork by John Romita, Jr.
Luke Ross' early artwork is horrid. I was shocked when a reader pointed out to me that he did a run of newer material that I enjoyed. I did a quick look and sure enough, Ross has evolved into a fine, fine artist, and I have enjoyed many issues that he has done. His work here is pretty bad, though. Chalk it up as the work of a young artist finding his voice. Steve Skroce's artwork made me ill. There is nothing pleasing to the eye about it.
Fortunately we get treated to Kyle Hotz's unique artwork in Spider-Man: The Osborn Journal. Hotz's work always has serrated edge to it, and it works really well with the Green Goblin. The one-shot spoof Spider-Man: 101 Ways To End The Clone Saga was an entertaining read and offered some interesting takes on the ending. I quite liked the whole Dr. Seward Trainer as Judas Traveller idea, even if it wasn't airtight. Coulda shoulda woulda, right?
Artwork by Kyle Hotz. I really enjoyed his Marvel MAX Zombie series. (Both of them.)
The book ends with the one-shot Spider-Man: Dead Man's Hand, this one featuring an old favorite of mine, Carrion. It ended the book on a good note. So there you have it. Everything that you ever wanted to know about the Complete Clone Saga/Ben Reilly Epic trades but were afraid to ask. I just hope that Marvel doesn't slap all of these books into five Omnibus hardcovers anytime soon...
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3.75 out of 5. 
The OCD zone- The fourteen story pages that were exclusive to the 1997 Spider-Man: Revelations trade paperback are included here, interspersed with Spider-Man #75 as they were in that trade paperback. The entire issue was recolored by Gregory Wright for the 1997 collected edition, and that is the version collected here. (Special thanks to Jeph York for clarifying that tidbit for me!) Now my OCD completist self also wants to see the issue as it was originally presented and colored. Maybe the seemingly inevitable Omnibus will collect it as an extra. Why do I do this stuff to myself. Why? Why???
DVD-style Extras included in this book: The Return Of The One True Spider-Man house ad for the Revelations crossover.
Spider-Man: Revelations trade paperback introduction by Ralph Macchio.
The Spectacular Spider-Man #240 Halloween Variant Cover by Luke Ross.
Spider-Man: Revelations trade paperback cover.
Spider-Man: Revelations trade paperback afterward.
Linework and Color restoration rating: 4.75 out of 5. There are three pages where the colors appear muted, with the blacks looking especially weak. I suspect that it was a printer error, but regardless of whose fault it is, it costs .25 OCD points.
Paper rating: 4.5 out of 5. A good, thick glossy coated stock of paper. It works well for material with more modern computer coloring. It would not get as high of a rating if it were used on '60s-80s material.
Binding rating: 4.25 out of 5. Perfect bound book. That means glue, kids. It has a nice thick band of glue, however, and it lays pretty flat in one hand for about 80% of the book, like a big honking comic book would.
Cardstock cover coating rating: 5 out of 5. I never have a problem with Marvel's waxlike laminated cardstock covers.



1 comment:

  1. You did it -- congratulations!! It's good to know someone else has survived the entire Clone Saga journey, since I plan to make it myself one day. I was just flipping through my Clone Saga Vol. 1 and 3 trades last night (I don't remember why I'm missing Vol. 2...), thinking about how much I enjoyed the parts of this era I read at the time. Like you've pointed out in your reviews, a lot of the artwork holds up, too...I love the designs for Ben's various costumes. I still miss him today, if only for that.

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